Questions and Answers - Response to Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD)

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Disease Control

Does the CFIA have an emergency preparedness/response plan in place for animal health emergencies?

Emergency preparedness is a key part of what the CFIA does. Animal health emergency management plans provide for a swift response in the event of a foreign disease outbreak. The CFIA has developed a detailed emergency response plan entitled: "Hazard Specific Plan," which is revised regularly to improve its response capability.

Would Canada be ready to act if an outbreak of FMD occurred?

Canada is ready to act rapidly and effectively to control and eradicate FMD. The current strategy is designed to quickly identify all exposed premises, cull exposed and potentially exposed high-risk animals, and decontaminate the environment to avoid further spread. Our goal is to regain Canada's FMD-free status as quickly as possible.

Who is responsible for controlling the spread of a disease during an outbreak?

Although controlling the spread of a foreign animal disease is a shared responsibility, the CFIA has the lead in implementing a foreign animal disease emergency response plan. This authority is legislated under the Health of Animals Act. Co-operation and support between all levels of government and the livestock industry is key to the successful control and eradication of a disease that could affect the health of Canada's livestock population and the economy.

What biosecurity practices should livestock producers follow to guard against FMD?

Canadian livestock producers play a key role in protecting animal health. Strict biosecurity practices should always be followed to minimize the introduction and spread of any infectious animal disease, including FMD. Producers can protect the health of their livestock by:

  • restricting visitors' access to animals;
  • preventing animals from coming into contact with wild animals;
  • routinely cleaning and disinfecting, footwear, clothing and equipment;
  • keeping records of the movement of people, animals and equipment on and off the premises;
  • purchasing new animals, feed and supplies from reputable suppliers; and
  • keeping new animals separate from existing animals for at least five days.

Anyone leaving a farm to go to another farm or to attend an event where livestock are present should ensure that their footwear and clothing has been properly cleaned and disinfected prior to departure.

Producers should also ensure that all staff - particularly those who are hired on a seasonal basis - are familiar with principles of biosecurity.

How would the CFIA dispose of FMD-infected animals?

The CFIA would dispose of affected animals by incineration or burial in agreement with provincial or municipal environment authorities.

Vaccination

Can I buy vaccine for FMD to vaccinate my animals?

No. FMD vaccine is not available on the market in Canada. Canada's policy does not allow FMD vaccination except in certain clearly defined situations, such as in the face of an overwhelming outbreak. This policy is based on good disease control principles and, at the same time, gives Canada the widest possible access to international trade.

Why does Canada not vaccinate against FMD?

Canada does not rely on routine vaccination against FMD because:

  1. there are several types of the virus and it is not possible to predict which type Canadian animals may be exposed to from year to year. To maximize their effectiveness, vaccines must be targeted to the specific type of FMD that is present;
  2. if an animal is exposed to the virus shortly after vaccination, it may become a carrier and spread the virus without showing any signs of infection;
  3. vaccination is not effective in a small percentage of animals;
  4. for most animals, two vaccinations at prescribed intervals are required, although this depends upon the species and the effectiveness of the vaccine for the particular virus. This is time-consuming and expensive for producers;
  5. routine blood tests cannot distinguish vaccinated animals from infected animals, and therefore vaccinated animals and their products would not meet export requirements for most of Canada's trading partners;
  6. producers and veterinarians would not become aware that the disease had entered the country as quickly as they would if every animal were susceptible and showed signs of the disease.

What would be the effect on trade if we were to vaccinate before the disease is detected?

If Canada were to routinely vaccinate against FMD, we would lose our status as "FMD-free without vaccination". This would have significant trade repercussions since most industrialized countries, including the U.S. restrict imports from countries that practice FMD vaccination, even if they can prove that they do not have FMD.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the world standard-setting body for international trade in animals, lists countries and zones of the world that have met criteria with respect to FMD. Canada and its major trading partners are on the "FMD free without vaccination" list.

Would Canada consider vaccinating if FMD entered the country?

Yes, after careful consideration, Canada may "emergency vaccinate", as was done in parts of Europe during the 2001 outbreak there. Vaccination is considered to be the third line of defence, after prevention and disease control. In some circumstances, vaccination may reduce the number of animals that have to be slaughtered in the long term.

If we had an outbreak, how long would it be before our trading partners accepted our FMD-free status again and resumed trade? How long would it be if we didn't vaccinate? How long would it be if we did vaccinate?

While many factors will come into play when a country considers whether to start importing from a country that has experienced an outbreak of FMD, we (or our trading partners) will be guided in part by the OIE guidelines stating:

  • when FMD occurs in an FMD free country or zone where vaccination is not practiced, the following waiting periods are required to regain FMD free status:
    1. 3 months after the last case, where stamping-out and serological surveillance are applied; or
    2. 3 months after the slaughter of the last vaccinated animal where stamping-out, serological surveillance and emergency vaccination are applied.

To regain "FMD free without vaccination" status, all the vaccinated animals must be tracked and eventually be slaughtered.

What would be the trade implications for Canada if we were to opt for control with vaccination and did not slaughter vaccinated animals?

If we did not slaughter vaccinated animals after an outbreak of FMD, we would be listed by the OIE as a country that is "FMD free with vaccination." We would be unable to export certain commodities to our major trading partners since most industrialized countries, including the U.S., restrict imports from countries that practice FMD vaccination, even if they can prove that they do not have FMD.

Production of meat and animal products for export is a very significant part of Canada's economy, and one that we wish to protect. It is in our best interests to maintain our current status as "FMD-free without vaccination".

If we decide to vaccinate, would we be able to get enough vaccine? Would it be the right vaccine?

Canada, the U.S., and Mexico are the members of the North American Foot-and-Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank. The purpose of the bank is to hold FMD concentrated antigens, which can be finished into vaccine in the event of a FMD outbreak in one of the member countries. Vaccines specific to the virus entering Canada would have to be requested.

Is any FMD vaccine produced in North America?

The North American Foot-and-Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank is located in North America, but it only holds frozen, concentrated antigens. These do not pose a health risk. In the event of an outbreak, the antigens would be sent to Europe to be reformulated into vaccine.

Is there compensation available to Canadians for animals that may be destroyed due to FMD?

The federal government provides financial compensation to owners whose animals are ordered destroyed under the Health of Animals Act as part of an official program to control or eradicate diseases considered a threat to Canada's livestock population. The goal of compensation is to encourage owners to report disease in their herds and flocks at the first sign, to prevent or reduce the spread of disease, to allow trace back to the source, and to help owners rebuild their herds.

Owners are awarded the market value of each animal ordered destroyed, up to a maximum amount prescribed in legislation. These maximum amounts vary by species.

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